If you have a beautiful engine, you might as well show it off. This is where the art of open-working a watch comes into play. By doing away with the traditional dial and removing material from the plates and bridges, the mechanism is revealed and becomes an integral part of the watch’s time-telling function. But this technique requires great care with the decorating, the beveling, the polishing, and the various types of finish. Furthermore, as material is removed from structural parts, invisible tensions in the metal can lead to deformation of the now filigree bridges. These have to provide stable support for a running engine. It’s more challenging if that engine is driving a split-second mechanism activated by clutches, which requires stable anchoring. The results, however, are worth the effort for the magnificent view of a very complex grande complication.
The challenge and the prize when meeting that challenge was the motivation behind Czapek & Cie’s decision to create the Rattrapante line of watches a year ago. The sapphire crystal in the front and on the exhibition case back reveal the intricate choreography of the dial-side mechanism. Immediately recognizable are the two “Czapek” subdials. At 4 o’clock is a 30-minute totalizer, at 7 o’clock tick the small seconds. In the center of the watch is the tripod bridge that holds down the patented satellite minute train and the split seconds-mechanism. Also clearly visible are the two column wheels needed for the chronograph and the split-seconds mechanisms respectively.
This latest iteration of the Antarctique is named “Ice Blue.” As the name suggests, this new Rattrapante reveals the special qualities of this colour, which exudes calm and poise. “We are continuing to explore the many possibilities offered by this very attractive and popular new family of watches,” says Czapek CEO, Xavier de Roquemaurel. “Adding the blue is like a signature for the whole collection: Antarctica, blue sky, blue sea, blue ice.”
This model features traditionally blued hands that harmonise well with the weave of metallic greys inside the open-worked watch. A closer look reveals a fumé blue shimmer emanating from the minute track and the two totalizer tracks. The effect is produced by the use of sapphire crystal rings that have been treated with metal oxides applied by an evaporation process. Adding to the visual dynamism of the dial is the red chrono hand, known as the trotteuse in French, and the small red “60” at 12 o’clock.
Another salient visual aspect, though, is the dance of levers and cams on the dial of this split-second chronograph and the clamp, which instantly immobilizes one of the chrono wheels when the split-second pusher is activated. The other chronograph hand must then continue its time-counting undisturbed. When the clamp is released, the immobilized hand will “catch up” (rattraper in French) to its companion. Each part must be manufactured to the highest specifications to ensure absolute precision.
Driving the Rattrapante Ice Blue is the Czapek’s high-performance proprietary caliber SHX6. It was created in collaboration with Chronode and is both a mechanical and aesthetic work of art. “The split-second runs on energy tapped from the second wheel,” explains Xavier. “And in this movement, we favored a horizontal clutch rather than a vertical one to highlight the aesthetics of the transmission.” Furthermore, to ensure the streamlined look of the watch, the number of parts and their thickness was reduced to a minimum. Everything had to fit in the 42.5-millimeter case.
The Antarctique Rattrapante Ice Blue comes on Czapek’s own stainless steel case bracelet, whose links are shaped like the letter C. It will be available in a limited edition of 99 pieces as of April 2nd, 2022.